The parish of Kinawley-Killesher only came into existence in 2012. Up until this point, Kinawley and Killesher were two separate parishes. Fr. Donald Hannon was the parish priest, Father Gabriel Kelly was the curate. Canon Brian Mc Namara was parish priest of Killesher. With the retirement of Canon McNamara in 2012, the new parish came into existence. Fr. Hannon was parish priest of Kinawley-KIllesher for a year, before being succeeded by Father Gabriel Kelly as parish priest on 1st September 2013. Father Benny Fitzpatrick was appointed on 1st February 2014 as curate to the parish. This short history will therefore be broken down into the parishes’ constituent parts.


St. Naile's Ruins The original church of St. Naile, came into existence sometime in the middle of the sixth century. The Kinawley district take sits name from the church. The parish of Kinawley lies partly in County Cavan and partly, but mostly, in County Fermanagh. Shortly after the middle of the seventeenth century, sections of the ancient parishes of Kinawley and Tomregan lying in County Fermanagh were detached and united to form the Catholic parish of Knockninny. The last quarter of the twelfth and the opening years of the thirteenth century saw the monastic foundation of Saint Naile replaced by a parochial church, served by secular clergy. 

In Penal times, there were Mass centres at Drumbinnis, north of Kinawley, and at Teesnaughtan and Greenan, both west of Kinawley, near the Cavan boundary. At Caldragh, two and a half miles south of Kinawley was the famous ‘Mass House’ close to Caldragh Mill, which was the place of worship and refuge for the priests of Kinawley fror almost 150 years. The ruins of the medieval  church of Saint Naile, whose ruins still stand in the cemetery, was the place of worship and had been for several centuries, probably back to the 1400’s, built on the site where Saint Naile had established his church in the sixth century. Before the present church was opened, there was an old church in the lower part of the old cemetery, which had been erected in 1811, which had been preceded by thatched chapels such as those in Tiroogan and Caldragh. The church preceding the present one was built of stone and had a slated roof, at least towards the end of its time. There is no trace of it now, as it was completely taken down in 1879 and the materials used in the erection of Kinawley School. The foundations of the present church in Kinawley (built on the ‘Barrack Acre’, thanks to the generosity of Edward Maguire) were sunk and work commenced around the feast of Saint Naile in 1874 and was solemnly dedicated by Bishop Nicholas Conaty on 19 February 1876. The so called ‘barrack acre’ after a legal wrangle would become the Kinawley chapel grounds. Fr. Bernard O’Reilly’s role in the building of the church was immense. He celebrated the first Mass on Christmas Day 1875. There is an unbroken chain of places of worship of God in Kinawley for over 1400 years from the time of Saint Naile to the present day.

In September 1958 an explosion at the nearby Orange Hall while Mass was being celebrated in the church caused serious damage to the windows, the roof and the altar decorations. These damages were all repaired and other repairs and innovations took place on line with Vatican two. Improvements were carried out on the building in 1976, while Father Liam Gaffney was curate and again in 2000, while Father Gerry Comiskey was curate and was re-dedicated by Bishop Leo O’Reilly on 4 August 2002.   In 2026, Saint Naile’s church will be 150 years old.


Patrick 0 Droma 1444 (d.) Matthew 0 Droma 1444 Patrick 0 Droma —1658 - 1684— Thomas Drum —1704 - 1710— John Drum(mond) —1714 - 1753— Patrick MacCorry —1766 - 1769— Owen 0 Reilly 1781 -1801, Laurence Dolan, OFM 1801-April 1811, Philip Magauran 15 May 1811 - 18 June 1826, John Brady 18 June 1826 -1845, Philip (Mac)Kiernan Adm. 1828 -1 May 1838, Terence 0 Reilly Adm. 1838 -10 Aug. 1843, John MacHugh May 1843-22 Sept. 1852, John Murray Oct. 1852-13 March 1858, Thomas 0 Reilly May 1858-24 Nov. 1866, Peter Whelan 24 Nov. 1866-29 Jan. 1878, Bernard Finegan Feb. 1878 -March 1880, Thomas 0 Reilly March 1880-28 Nov. 1891, Patrick 0 Reilly 14 Jan. 1892-11 Aug. 1927, Patrick E. Mallon 30 Nov. 1927-12 May 1944, Michael Kelly 27 June 1944-23 Sept. 1950, John J. Murtagh 23 Sept. 1950-2 Aug. 1955, Thomas 0 Dowd 27 Aug. 1955-25 March 1960, Charles J. Matthews 7 May 1960-6 Nov. 1963, Timothy Keany 1 Feb. 1964-26 Aug. 1978, Sean 0 Reilly 26 Aug. 1978 – 1993, Donald Hannon 1993-2013, Gabriel Kelly 2013-present.


Philip Shenan, OFM —1714— 9 Oct. 1742 (d.) Patrick Backahan, OP —1766— 1776 (d.) 107, Owen 0 Reilly 1779-1781, T. Magauran 1829, Patrick Teevan 1829 – 1831, Terence 0 Reilly 1830 - 30 June 1835, John Brady 1835 - 17 April 1839, William Mac Cauley 1839-1841, Hugh Magauran 1841-1852, James Clarke Nov. 1852 - 28 Nov. 1866, Bernard 0 Reilly 28 Nov. 1866-Feb. 1878, Patrick 0 Connell 1878-15 May 1885, Patrick Fitzsimons 1883-Nov. 1885, Charles Brady 1885-1888, Patrick 0 Reilly 14 July 1888-24 July 1894, 24 May 1898-May 1899, Bernard Brady 1892-24 Nov. 1893, Bernard Carolan Jan. 1894-28 Feb. 1896, Francis Brady 1896-29-Oct. 1897, John Fitzpatrick 29 Oct. 1897-July 1904, James Fitzpatrick July 1904-2 May 1907, Terence Mac Govern 2 May 1907-28 Nov. 1909, Daniel MacManus Jan. 1910-11 Feb. 1911, Patrick Mac Phillips 11 Feb. 1911-14 Aug. 1919, Thomas Mac Mahon 14 Aug. 1919-17 July 1925, James 0 Rourke 17 July 1925 -July 1927, Philip Cahill 8 July 1927-28 Feb. 1936, Bernard 0 Reilly 28 Feb. 1936-30 June 1943, Laurence Gilmartin 30 June 1943-7 Aug. 1965, Thomas W. Gaffney 7 Aug. 1965-28 Aug. 1976, Con Dolan 9 Oct. 1976-12 Sept. 1981, John Cusack 12 Sept. 1981-1990, Sean Mc Goldrick 1990-1996, Dermot Prior 1996-1998, Gerry Comiskey 1998—2006, Gabriel Kelly C.C. 2006-2013. P.P. in 2014 (resident in Kinawley).


Killesher Cill Laisreach — The Church of Lasair

Wheathill GraveyardKillesher is one of the three parishes of Kilmore diocese located in south-west Fermanagh. It stretches from Lough MacNean in the north-west to Upper Lough Erne in the east, bounded by the Arney River to the north with the towering Cuilagh mountains in to the west. The cradle of the faith in the area was an early 6th century Christian settlement in the townland of Killesher. This settlement was founded by a holy woman remembered to this day as Saint Lasair. There is still an old reilig or graveyard on the site and also the remains of a medieval church. Nearby also is a holy well known as Lasairs Well and a souterrain called Saint Lasairs Cell. Tradition says that Lasair came from Roscommon originally and indeed there is a frequently visited shrine dedicated to her at Ballyfarnon in that county.The settlement founded by Lasair continued on a place of worship and piety up to the 17th century era of the Penal Laws and suppression of the Catholic Church. We know that there was a high cross on the site known as "The High Cross of Killesher" up to that time. At the beginning of the Penal Laws, it was ritually smashed to pieces. However part of it survives to this day portraying a scene from the Crucifixion and this part is kept at the Castle Museum in Enniskillen. The important point is that the faith, zeal and holiness of this woman was so strong that she became identified with the whole surrounding territory giving us its name, Cill Laisreach or Killesher in English. The earliest records of the post-medieval era tell us that Father Arthur MacCorry was appointed as parish priest of Killesher on the 10th of October 1488. The late 16th and 17th centuries brought invasion, dispossession and disaster to the area with the Plantation of Ulster and the subsequent punitive Penal Laws designed to suppress the Catholic faith and the ancient Gaelic way of life. Chapels or Mass-Houses were prohibited but the people congregated clandestinely for Mass at Mass-Rocks and Mass-Gardens throughout the parish thus ensuring that the faith survived and was handed on at a time of great suffering and distress. In fact there was a Mass-Rock in the townland of Killesher adjacent to the site of Lasairs original settlement. There was another Mass Rock in Gortmaconnell and also one in Kilnameel.

According to the handed down folk tradition, people also congregated for Mass in the open air on a hill in the townland of Ervery of the Swanlinbar road. The same folk tradition tells us that there was a Mass-Garden at a small lake on the boundary between the townlands of Macken and Drumbrochas. This lake was known as "Bun Lake" and virtually disappeared with the dredging of the Erne in the 19th and 20th centuries. It exists today merely as a marshy swamp. It is known that the Penal Laws were enforced with vigour in the three South Fermanagh parishes and therefore they have a higher density of Mass-Rocks, Mass-Gardens and Mass-Glens than any other part of Kilmore diocese. A government document of 1714 states: "Doctor Mac Hue, priest of Killesher was registered but had not taken oath. Also Hugh Mac Hue, a friar, curate and assistant to Doctor Mac Hue in aforesaid parish has not registered or taken oath". The Doctor Mac Hue mentioned was Father Owen McHugh, the parish priest and Hugh McHugh was his curate. He was a Franciscan and was the only curate ever appointed to Killesher parish (until Father Gabriel Kelly in 2012). These two men ministered to our ancestors at a very difficult time oblivious to their own safety. During their ministry they baptised a child in 1721 from Mullanveigh, who was christened Denis Maguire. After studying at the Irish College of Louvain in Belgium, this child, now an adult became a Franciscan Priest. In 1767 he was appointed Bishop of Dromore and three years later he came back to the diocese of Kilmore as its bishop. This Killesher man was our bishop for a long time and died on the 23 December 1798. During his term in Kilmore the Penal Laws were going into decline and so he encouraged the building of basic chapels or mass houses, simple structures with thatched roofs and lacking windows, floors or seating. It is known that there was one of these simple chapels serving Killesher in 1837. It was located near Coach Road Cross and was known as "Cross Roads Chapel". There is also reference to a similar basic chapel at Mullnahunchin, Wheathill in 1835.

In 1855, Father Patrick Smith, a native of Laragh parish in Cavan was appointed parish priest of Killesher. He immediately set to work organising the building of the present day Saint Patricks Church, an enormous task given that the Great Famine had just ended a few years before. Lord Cole had refused him a suitable site and he had no choice but to build it in a hollow. However, overcoming all adversity, political, architectural and financial he motivated his flock and after 2 years work, Saint Patricks Church Killesher was blessed and opened in 1857. This was an enormous achievement at the time. It was a simple barn style church but has valiantly served as "Gods House" to our community for over 157 years.

In 1866, Father James Cleary from the parish of Kilmore near Cavan town was appointed as parish priest. Seeing that the existing Mass house at Mullnahunchin was no longer adequate for worship he began building the present day Saint Lasairs Church. It was blessed and opened in 1874.

There are two holy wells in the parish. Saint Lasairs holy well is adjacent to her original Christian site but there is another one in Mullanhunchin. Tradition says that cripples came to this well seeking healing in its waters. Beside it grew a tree with strangely shaped branches which was known as "The Crutch Tree". The only cemetery in the parish was the one known still as "Old Killesher". Parishioners were buried there or in neighbouring Kinawley, Killinagh or Amey, In 1942, Father John Magaurian PP established the present day cemetery adjacent to the parish church. It was extended by Father Brian Mc Namara who also added a toilet block to the chapel. He was the last parish priest of Killesher.


Arthur MacConry 10 Oct. 1488, Owen MacHugh 1704 – 1724, John Maguire, OFM —1750, Thomas Maguire 1774-1797, John MacVe 1784—12 March 1800, James Magauran 1797-1801, Bryan MacMahon 1801- 1825, John Brady 1822— 18 June 1826, Hugh 0 Reilly 18 June 1826-1828, Hugh de Lacy 1828-1831, John MacHugh 1831-1843, Francis Mason 1843-31 July 1853, John Gallagher 31 July 1853-1855, Patrick Smith July 1855-14 Nov. 1861, Peter Whelan 1861-24 Nov. 1866, James Cleary 24 Nov. 1866-31 Jan. 1875, Hugh Newman 31 Jan. 1875-21 Feb. 1879, Peter Galligan 21 Feb. 1879-19 April 1882, Patrick 0 Reilly 19 April 1882-14 Jan. 1892, Patrick Magauran 14 Jan. 1892-Sept. 1902, Patrick Soden Sept. 1902-8 May 1912, Joseph B. Meehan 8 May 1912-Nov. 1914, Henry MacCabe 1 Feb. 1915-12 Feb. 1930, Michael Kelly 12 Feb. 1930-11 Jan. 1937, John Magauran 11 Jan. 1937-28 Sept. 1944, John D. MacGrail 28 Sept. 1944-11 Oct. 1958,Hugh MacGrail 11 Oct. 1958-23 Aug. 1969, Thomas Curran 23 Aug. 1969-28 Aug. 1976, Thomas W. Gaffney 28 Aug. 1976-10 Sept. 1983, Brian Mac Namara 10 Sept. 1983 – 2012, Donald Hannon 2012-2013, Gabriel Kelly-present.


Hugh Mac Hugh, OFM 1714, Gabriel Kelly 2012-2013, Benny Fitzpatrick 2014-present


Killaghaduff RuinsThe county Cavan section of the parish of Kinawley-Killesher is known as the Swanlinbar division from its only town or as the Killaghaduff division from the ancient church site located within its borders. It is likely that Christianity first reached the district from the nearby Patrician station at Kilnavart in the parish of Templeport. However it is not until the second half of the eight century that we have authentic evidence of its earliest Christian foundation set up one mile south of Swanlinbar where its site is marked by the ruins of a medieval church in an ancient cemetery. The founder and patron saint of Killaghaduff was Saint Tigernach or Tierna, who died A.D. 806. The name Killaghaduff comes from Killachaidh Dubha, meaning ‘Black Field Church. This describes the nature of the soil – black and heavy – around the church and cemetery. Of Tigernach’s successors in Killaghaduff, not even the name of a single monk has survived. This is largely because of the structure of Irish monasticism at this period when each unit was largely autonomous and the work of each monk was self-effacing and anonymous.

The last quarter of the twelfth century and the opening years of the thirteenth century saw the monastic church of Saint Tigernach replaced by a parochial church served by secular priests. All parish churches in County Cavan were confiscated by the Crown in 1590 and handed over to the state church in 1609. Eighteen of them were repaired and fitted up for Protestant worship between 1612 and 1620. Kinawley church was thus transferred but it is not known when Protestant services were first held in it. During all this period, there is no mention of the church of Killaghaduff. The church had probably fallen into decay and had been abandoned by Catholics. It is usually assumed that Killaghaduff was a separate parish until the seventeenth century when it was united with Kinawley. There is no clear evidence that this was so in ecclesiastical records. When Catholics lost their churches and the right to practice their religion publicly, nothing was left to them but the Mass Rock. One of the best remembered Penal Day centres in Swanlinbar was a small sheltered garden which lay below the ruined church and cemetery of Killaghaduff. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, penal legislation relaxed somewhat, and Catholics ventured to erect a thatched chapel in the Mass garden at Killaghaduff. By 1823, this structure was in bad repair and Catholics sought a more suitable site for a place of worship, in the vicinity of Swanlinbar. However bigotry was rampant, and no Catholic held or could secure a lease of any land or property within miles of Swanlinbar. Eventually a site was obtained in a hollow close to the river and there in 1828 the church was erected which did duty until 1958. St. Mary’s, Swanlinbar was s 130 years old in 1958 and was in urgent need of reconstruction. It was decided to enlarge and modernise the edifice and at the time incorporate the old church in the new structure. Most of the old church was incorporated in the renovated structure that was so wantonly destroyed by a bomb on 8 December 1974. After this devastating blow, the decision was soon made to demolish the old church, damaged beyond repair and to erect a modern church, in terms of liturgical requirements, and yet standing favourable comparison with the building that had gone before. The new Saint Mary’s church was rededicated by Bishop Francis Mc Kiernan on 15th August 1978.


Edward Lynch 1880-1882, Peter Donohoe Sept. 1885-14 July 1888, Patrick 0 Reilly 14 July 1888-29 ccJuly 1893, Edward MacDonald 29 July 1893-28 July 1896, James Coyle 28 July 1896,Patrick 0 Reilly 6 May 1898 – May 1889, Patrick Soden Aug. 1899 – September 1902, Peter Connolly Sept. 1902-April 1905, Michael MacTernan -19 September 1911, John P. Mac Dermott 19 Sept. 1911 -30 August 1916, Michael Young 30 Aug. 1916-11 August1919, James Sheridan 11 Aug. 1919-7 February 1929, James Brady 7 Feb. 1929 -15 February 1934, Patrick 0 Reilly 15 Feb. 1934 -10 June 1941, Laurence Corr 10 June 1941-5 March 1947, Francis Brennan 5 March 1947 – 24 July 1954, Edward Fox 24 July 1954-20 July 1974, Torlac 0 Reilly 20 July 1974-26 August 1978. Benny Fitzpatrick 1 February 2014-present.


In conclusion, Kinawley-Killesher  has a strong tradition of faith dating back to earliest times, pointing once again to the parish motto – ‘fortis in fide’ – strong in faith. The Mass rocks at Drumbinnis, Teesnaughton, Gortmaconnell, Killnameel,  Ervery, ‘Bunn Lake’, Killaghaduff all bear eloquent testimony to the faith of our fathers as do the church ruins in all parts of the parish dating back to the fifteenth century and also the holy wells. Saint Naile’s well is reputed to have been used by Saint Naile and was a place of pilgrimage on the last Sunday of July each year. Nowadays it is reputed to have a cure for warts. The parish history of Kinawley-Killesher is one of struggle, sacrifice and deep commitment to God. The parish has been blessed in its priests who have ministered here often in difficult times. The parish has also provided many vocations to the foreign missions and now rejoices in the increasing number of lay people playing leading roles in the life of the parish.

May the parish of Kinawley-Killesher go from strength to strength.